How Good is HDR in Photoshop CS5

The news of improved HDR processing in CS5 was big news to many photographers, especially those that use other HDR products such as Photomatix Pro or HDR PhotoStudio 2. I have been playing with the new feature in CS5 and I think that the jury is still out on this one. Last week my buddy Matt Kloskowski wrote an article comparing CS5 and Photomatix. Matt’s bottom line is that a lot of folks will probably make the switch to CS5 based on the Remove Ghost feature and the lack of noise.

Unified Color, makers of the HDR PhotoStudio program also weighed in on the issue on their own blog. In response to the release of HDRPro in CS5, they had this to say:

“I think Adobe has really missed the mark with respect to HDR. They do the imaging community a disservice by perpetuating the myth of “The HDR Look” to mean grungy, over processed, over saturated, hyper realistic, images with halos that most photographers would go out of their way to avoid when sharpening regular images.”

So where am I on all of this?  Well, I’m not sure yet.  I see advantages to all of these programs and each one can deliver its own look to an HDR image.  I agree with Matt that the Remove Ghost feature is fantastic.  Photomatix offers wonderful control and ease of use, especially in creating hyper-realistic image. And HDR PhotoStudio creates probably the most photo-realistic image I have seen in any HDR program.  So for now I will probably continue to use all of them until I really find my comfort zone.

Here’s three examples of the same image that I processed with all three programs.  I tried to keep the processing fairly equal among each program and then took the final images back to Lightroom for some very minor adjustments. I quickly processed these images for use in the blog post so they aren’t necessarily my best work but it does give a quick look at the three programs. I’ll let you be the judge on what you think is the better image.  In the end, it really comes down to personal preference, both in the ease of use and the final look of the image.

HDRPro in CS5

Photomatix Pro

HDR PhotoStudio 2

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  • Jared Chapin

    You know I gotta say I like PS CS5′s look better.

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  • Jim Barklow

    I have to agree with Jared, PhotoMatix does have a good look. CS5 just has a better overall look.

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  • KC

    There is significantly more detail and sharpness in the CS5 shot (especially noticeable in the concrete sidewalk and building headers, and the building on the left: windows, brick, awning). Photomatix and PhotoStudio versions are almost a tie–both have little detail in the concrete, but are brighter in the trusses of the main building (especially Photomatix).

    This may all be due to pre- and post-editing the HDR (tweaks, sharpening, etc.), so I still say one would have to judge for themselves; however, I do think from this, and other examples I’ve seen, that CS5 is a much closer contender than it has been in the past.

  • William Beem

    To my eye, the HDR PhotoStudio 2 shot is the least appealing. Look at the grey sky in the background, the dull blue of the awning on the left, and the lack of contrast on the walkway by the columns on the left.

    Photomatix seems to do the best job of opening up the shadows in the rafters. HDRPro in CS5 seems to have the strongest contrast. Although I still tend to prefer the look of Photomatix, I guess it’s going to boil down to how the photographer choose to express himself. One thing is for certain – photographs are not reality.

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  • RogerT

    I’m sure that HDR Soft (PhotoMatix Pro) will be coming out with a major upgrade sometime soon that will blow the doors off of CS5′s HDR Pro though I do want to try it out when CS5 comes out I admit. I love PhotoMatix Pro, it rocks!

  • Ted Johns

    I kind of like the CS5 version as well. The outdoors to the right is brighter and seems more “realistic.” HDR PhotoStudio 2 looks too sharpened IMO. As a wedding photographer, I want more natural, and if it looks too affected, the romantic wedding pictures in virginia beach that I take of my couples are affected.

  • Gary Gardiner

    Can we original(s) for comparison? Perhaps a composite. That would make it a little easier to see which one best mimics reality.

    • jeff

      I will put the three original images up either tonight or tomorrow. The one thing I can tell you is that it was about as contrast a scene as you would ever want to shoot.


  • Arthur Agin

    I can’t wait for CS5 to ship. I have always had trouble using Photomatix. It looks like CS5 can deliver competitive results plus you get the benefits of application integration (and I think presets).


    Can HDRPro be applied using a Smart Object so it can be tweaked later?


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  • Laurie

    While I don’t have Photoshop CS5 yet, I do use Photomatix Pro and HDR PhotoStudio 2 with Lightroom, and I like Jeff’s assessment that it all boils down personal preferences. Right now I’m very happy with Photomatix Pro giving me “natural” HDR landscape and interior photos, and even great one-shot pseudo HDR portraits.

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  • donna-michelle

    check this review out

  • Jeremy Gilson

    A good article, I am new to HDR and have been considering different software options.

  • Richard WILSON

    Photomatix Pro wins here, no doubts! There’s more detail on the wood ceiling with Photomatix Pro than the other software… CS5 still need to improve here, Photomatix Pro gives the images this nice real HRD look, way better than the others…

  • Richard WILSON

    Correction, I mean HDR…

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